Friday, May 31, 2013

June revivals: first half

Hi there, Mike here with a revival list for the first half of June. I'll keep it short since this is a short list:

JAWS- Fri May 31 and Sat June 1 at 11:10PM- IFC Center- Jaws, a popular film over at IFC Center (file under Yeah: No Kidding), plays once again late at night this coming Friday and Saturday.  But this weekend, it's actually playing at a semi-reasonable time: 11:10PM. For a two hour-plus movie, very reasonable. Don't know if it'll play again next weekend, and if so, at about the same time. We'll have to wait for the night of Tuesday June 4th, and see on IFC Center's website.
On both AFI Top 100 lists, but higher up for me. Also in my personal Top 35 as opposed to just one of one hundred. Don't underestimate the quality of this Spielberg film on the big screen, and IFC Center tends to get good prints. It's not just another fish film. 3 Oscars including John Williams's memorable score, and a nomination for Best Picture (along with One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Barry Lyndon, Dog Day Afternoon and Nashville; not shabby:  

THE APPRENTICESHIP OF DUDDY KRAVITZ- Mon June 3- Thurs June 6 at 7 and 9:30- Film Forum- A DCP restoration of the little known 1974 Canadian film. The same restoration I believe that has been screened at this year's Cannes Film Festival. If American Graffiti launched Richard Dreyfuss's career, then this film shows his range as an actor. It didn't make him a leading man of the 1970s; Jaws, Close Encounters and The Goodbye Girl did that. The Apprenticeship would be his least-seen best performance from that decade, more so than The Big Fix from 1978. In fact Dreyfuss wouldn't have done Jaws if it hadn't been for this film; he was horrified by his performance in either a rough cut or a later edit, that he took Jaws in fear of permanent unemployment once this was released. He has since warmed up to both his performance and the film, at least since the late 1980s anyway. 
Dreyfuss plays the title character Duddy Kravitz, in a story set in 1940s working class-poor Montreal. The attention in this Jewish family is paid to his brother in medical school by their cab driver father (Jack Warden) and rich uncle (Joseph Wiseman), not to him. Hustling left and right and not caring who he hurts and alienates in the process (except for his grandfather, the only relative that takes interest in him), Duddy gets a summer job in a hotel. After some initial trouble, he gets himself a shiksa girlfriend, and new friends and associates to manipulate. All so he can bring himself onto a road to success and finally be seen by his father and uncle as someone to pay attention to. But since this includes a friend with epilepsy, an alcoholic and a gangster, the story is bound to hit some dark corners.
Not a hit when it came out at all. If a dark American character study from one year prior, Scarecrow which was on my last list of revivals, couldn't draw an audience, then The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, with lesser known actors, was practically DOA at the American box office. Critics liked it and it did get an Oscar nomination for Adapted Screenplay, but audiences stayed away in droves. Not so in Canada, where it's not only a hit at the box office, but considered a landmark in Canadian cinema, I kid you not. And this is despite there being no Canadian actors in any of the major roles. For box office purposes, director Ted Kotcheff not only went with Dreyfuss (right off of Graffiti), Warden and Wiseman, but also Randy Quaid (off of The Last Detail and The Last Picture Show) as the epileptic friend and Denholm Elliott as the alcoholic American director Duddy uses, er I MEAN befriends, yeah that's it . . .
Overall, we're not dealing with Death of a Salesman here, though we are dealing with a man desperate to be known and successful by whatever means necessary. He may end up in a similar dark place like Loman at the end of his life, and he may not have a family around him when he gets there. All this while getting an idea of life for a poor Jewish family in Montreal during the 40s. Of course this would have trouble finding a place with the other films Paramount Pictures released in 1974. Of course little Duddy Kravitz would have trouble getting noticed next to the likes of Godfather Part 2, Chinatown, The Conversation and The Parallax View. But this isn't 1974 and you do have a choice. I hope you choose to go:

THE RAZOR'S EDGE for 7.50- Thurs June 6 at 9:30 will probably start closer to 9:45- Chelsea Clearview Cinema- A cheap screening of the Tyrone Power original, not the Bill Murray remake of Somerset Maugham's novel. Power plays a millionaire/ unhappy World War I veteran, who dumps his materialistic fiancee (Gene Tierney) to find spiritual enlightenment. When he comes back, he tries to help an old friend (Anne Baxter), who, having lost her family in an accident, is in a place of spiritual misery similar to what he was suffering. But those efforts are stymied by the ex-fiance, who wants him back, and will do anything to do it. Oscar nominations for Picture, Clifton Webb for Supporting Actor (as the snobby uncle of Tierney), and Art Direction. An Oscar for Supporting Actress for Anne Baxter, as the woman who seems to either try to deaden the pain of losing her husband and child through alcohol, opium and empty affairs, or trying to become dead herself.

I'm sorry I have no time for the 7pm screening with Hedda Lettuce, only the 9:30 screening. Note that the film is about 2 hours 25 minutes long and when you add the Hedda opening intro, I'm guessing the film will start by around 9:40 and end by Midnight. So be prepared:
The next three films are all playing on Friday, June 7th. Because of the screening times and different locations, I can only do one of these three films. I'll let majority rules decide which if any of these pictures I'll attend. But I recommend them all, so if we can't do them together, I encourage you to catch one of them anyway:

SINGIN IN THE RAIN for a 7.00 bar minimum- introduced by Sarah Ruhl- Fri June 7 at 9:30- A cheap screening of the classic musical, Singin' In The Rain, for a 7 dollar minimum. Due to the popularity of the film, I strongly advise make your bar purchases done at 6:45-7 so you can get your free ticket. Now I'm not suggesting you get drunk quickly or at all, in fact you don't need to purchase alcohol in order to reach the bar minimum. I'm only suggesting that this film will be more popular than some of the other screenings at the Rubin, and there have been some popular films there. 

Now onto the film itself. When Singin in the Rain came out, it was successful, but ignored. Yes it was nominated for it's score, and the only actor nominated from this was not Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds or Donald O'Connor, but Jean Hagen as the funny, bitch-on-wheels diva. But it was dismissed as fluff, and people moved on. People in 1952 wanted to go on and on about Ivanhoe, John Huston's Moulin Rouge, Son Of Paleface, and the Oscar winner for Best Picture, The Greatest Show On Earth (considered by some to be the biggest mistake the Academy ever made in that category). But when people ever bring up quality films released in the U.S. back in 1952, it's High Noon, Rashomon, Singin' In The Rain, and that's it. OK, maybe The Quiet Man, but you'd have to be Irish and drunk to do that.

Playwright Sarah Ruhl (In The Next Room or The Vibrator Play, Dead Man's Cell Phone) will introduce the screening:

LATE SPRING- Fri June 7 at 9:30- Film Forum- The first film in the Forum's three week long Yasujiro Ozu series, and possibly the only film in the series I can make. Ozu may not have created the genre of Shomingeki; depicting contemporary Japanese families in their everyday lives, through their small defeats and small triumphs. Where the difficulties and obstacles are small in the big picture, but important in their smaller world. Ozu was probably the master of this kind of filmmaking, and Late Spring tends to be considered his best work.
From 1949 though not released in the U.S. until 1972, it depicts a daughter in her late 20s taking care of her widowed father. He seems capable of living on his own, but his daughter not only enjoys doing the housework and taking care of her father, but it has reached the point where she considers marriage to be repugnant or "filthy". Matters come to ahead when Father not only arranges a marriage for her, but also makes plans to remarry herself.
During this time, Ozu was among the Japanese filmmakers to submit their synopsis to the censors for the American Occupation. Films made in Japan could not say or depict anything that were against American values of the day, while making no mention of the atomic bombs, the destruction caused by them and other bombs, and any mention of the war or of the Japanese military must be as minimal as possible. And any Japanese tradition that would appear unseemly in the Censors' eyes, such as ancestor worship or arranged marriage had to be either eliminated or tweaked so as to as though the individual wasn't being crushed by non-American values. That Ozu managed to pull this off and create a classic drama in his country is amazing, even if the film went unseen here until 1972:

THE THING (1982)- Fri June 7 at 11:59pm- Elinor Bunin Monroe Film Center at Lincoln Center- Midnight movies return to Lincoln Center, but now they will play at the Center's newer Elinor Bunin Monroe Film Center, as opposed to the Walter Reade. Sorry to say this will be the only June screening from this series that I'll post. I'm not in the mood for the original Omen at Midnight, little interest in Big Trouble in Little China and even less interest in Deadly Blessing. So until the July and August schedules are posted, John Carpenter's The Thing will have to do for a Midnight screening. Ok, 11:59PM, whatever . . .

One of the better horror films, possibly the best from the 1980s, gets a midnight screening. One of few that I can think of where a remake tops the original. An alien shape-shifting lifeform crashes onto Earth, and in order to exist, it must live like a virus and wipe out or take over the life that already exists on whatever planet it exists on. Which in this case is us. And it's up to an isolated group from an American scientific station, desperately playing catch up and grasping for theories, to stop it. But when it starts taking them over, and becomes hard to tell which of them are human and which are not . . . .

Kurt Russell makes a great action lead, with character actors like Keith David, Donald Moffat, and Wilford Brimley filling out the talented cast. The make-up effects grossed out some audiences (damaging potential word of mouth) and most critics, but they don't feel too over the top and still hold up today. Especially one scene where one portion tries to escape from another part in a very memorable way. If you haven't seen it, I'm not spoiling this.

The gross out factor, some brutal reviews, the R rating that made the PG rated Poltergeist more accessible, and just being released in the summer of 1982, where if you weren't E.T. (the happy alien movie released two weeks earlier), than you probably struggled at the box office. All of this helped make The Thing a high profile flop. But like another high profile flop released that very same day, Blade Runner, The Thing has also been re-evaluated and risen to both cult status and to the heights of its respective genre. Not AFI top 100 level like Blade Runner, but close enough:

Let me know if there's interest. Later all.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

May Revivals: Second Half

Hey all. Mike here with a list of revivals for the the rest of May. If you think this list is long, it could have been a lot longer. Like I have stated before, I'm using life getting in the way to whittle down the options to a select few. I'll start with two repeats from the last list. I wish I got to this sooner, so that I could post more than just one date for these films. You'll have to pick one or the other, but luckily one of them will play again in June:

BADLANDS- Wed May 15 at 6:30 and 8:20- Film Forum- A 4K restoration of Terrence Malick's film, his most accessible whether you see it on the big screen or TV, on its 40th anniversary. The restoration was supervised by Emmanuel Lubezki, who shot Malick's The New World, The Tree of Life, To The Wonder, as well as Children of Men. This will leave the Forum after May 16th. But I'm not sure if I can do the 16th or not, which is why I'm only posting the evening of May 15th screenings.

Malick's feature length directorial debut from 1973. In 1959, a 25 year old drifter (Martin Sheen) who idolizes James Dean, runs off with his 15 year old girlfriend (Sissy Spacek). This might sound romantic, but once you know going in that Badlands is a dramatized version of the infamous Starkweather homicides of 1958, you know you're in violence-with-consequences territory. The couple move around, love each other and interact with each other and the open road in an almost dreamlike state. But Spacek's off-screen narration tells us that at least one half of the couple knows they have a dark future ahead.

Kind of a response for those who felt the main characters in Bonnie and Clyde were too romanticized, and a clear inspiration for the ultra-heightened Natural Born Killers. With some of the best acting work Sheen and Spacek have ever done. Among debut films for directors, I would argue that only Welles' Citizen Kane and John Huston's The Maltese Falcon are better films than Badlands. Boy do I hope I'm not misquoted or taken out of context with that sentence . . . :

VOYAGE TO ITALY- Wed May 15 at 7:30 and 9:30- Film Forum- The DCP restoration of Roberto Rossellini's film has apparently been popular enough that the Forum is extended it's run for another week, but this will also leave after May 16th. A film about Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders trying to keep their flailing marriage alive and doing a lousy job at it; that's what's popular at the Forum right now. Go figure. Still want to catch it though. I should also bring up that if you can't make out to the Forum, Voyage To Italy will screen at the Museum of The Moving Image, alongside James Mason in Bigger Than Life, on Saturday June 22nd and Sunday June 23rd:


SCARECROW- Sat May 18 at 1 and 3:20 and Tues May 21- Thurs May 23 at 7:30 and 9:40- Film Forum- A DCP screening of the 1973 film that only critics, some acting teachers of a certain age, and fanatics of the two leading men seem to know. 2 hobo types; ex-con Gene Hackman, who wants to open a car wash but seems more preoccupied with broads, booze and bar fights, and Al Pacino, an ex-sailor with dreams of meeting up with the girlfriend and infant he abandoned and has nothing else to do. A character study of two men who would be right at home at Harry Hope's bar from Iceman Cometh more than anywhere else. If you've ever heard of the saying "it's not the destination that matters, it's the journey", then consider this the story of men for whom the road and each other are the only comforts they have. Society has no interest in them, they burned enough bridges behind to insure as such.
A standout in the road picture genre, fans of great acting, and in 1970s cinema. Or would be if the film had drawn an audience of any size at all. Instead, consider Scarecrow alongside the likes of say, Charley Varrick and Blue Collar, on a theoretical list of great 1970s films few people have heard of. Hackman cited his role as his all-time favorite; the film's failure in light of the massive success of the Poseidon Adventure was one of the reasons for a depression that caused him to briefly retire from acting. I'm not sure if Pacino felt the same, but the combined box office failures of Scarecrow, Bobby Deerfield, Cruising and Author Author probably gave him similar feelings that might partially explain his near-total absence from the big screen from 1983 until Sea of Love (don't bring up Revolution, let sleeping dogs lie). Anyway, it runs for a week, I posted the days and times that I can probably do. I would really like to make time for this:
EPIC in 3-D and/or HEAD and/or THE LAST WALTZ- Sun May 19 at 1 (Epic), 4 (Head) and 6:30 (Waltz)- Museum of the Moving Image- A potential double or triple feature at the Museum of the Moving Image, all for one admission. The first film isn't a revival but a new release, Fox's Epic. It's not due for release until May 24th, but it will get a sneak preview at the Museum on Sunday, May 19th. It will be in digital 3-D and feature the voices of Colin Farrell, BeyoncĂ©, Amanda Seyfried, Josh Hutcherson, Judah Friedlander, and Jason Sudeikis. I don't know much beyond the trailer, featuring a young woman shrunk down to ant size, helping little humanoids fight other humanoids. Sorry I can't do better with the description; I'm more interested in the May releases of Star Trek and Iron Man 3, not this.  But I'm afraid I would be remiss if I didn't bring up the option you would have. Consider yourself told, moving on . . .  
The other two films screening on the 19th continues the Museum's Play Loud series of mostly Rock films. First, Head, from 1967. This will be the original 86 minute theatrical release, not the 110 minute director's cut. Remember what I wrote earlier about there being little point to explain the plot of a Marx Brother film? Well there's pretty much no point in explaining the plot of Head. Basically, the Monkees were on the verge of breaking up, so they made a film that spoofed themselves, the creation of a second-tier Beatles group like the Monkees, and the TV show they did. You can also consider this a re-construction and de-construction of the Monkees phenomenon  Different sequences, from a Western locale, to a Sci-Fi locale to a studio setting.

Working from a script by Jack Nicholson (allegedly on LSD the whole day it was written) and director Bob Rafelson, the film was DOA when released. Critics destroyed it, the teenage fans were turned off, and generally everyone else who wasn't turned on by the Monkees remained uninterested. There is a cult following that either labels it as groundbreaking or an interesting mess. The music itself has been almost unanimously praised, with songs written by Carole King, Harry Nilsson, Nicholson and Rafelson, and individual members of the band itself. So just consider this at best a more accessible deconstruction than Goddard or some other fancy European director has ever made, or a fascinating mess with good music that's only 87 minutes long. Actually either way it will have some of the Monkees' best music, so there you go. Decide for yourself.  
Next is The Last Waltz. From 1978 and the reason why this retrospective is titled the way it is. Arguably the best concert film ever made. After Taxi Driver, a change of pace for director Martin Scorsese, filming the farewell concert of The Band on Thanksgiving 1976. Mixed with recording sessions that also included working with Emmylou Harris and The Staples. They also had some friends performing with them, including Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell, Ron Wood, Dr. John, and Ringo Starr. Also includes interviews with members of the Band, days after the concert. Also noteworthy is the cinematography of Michael Chapman, who also did Scorsese's Taxi Driver and Raging Bull. The first concert film to be photographed in 35mm. This will be a 35mm screening by the way, but if it's anything like the IFC Center screening, it should be just fine.

Hard to pick a favorite performance from the bunch; I expected to choose The Band themselves, but hot damn when Van Morrison came on, and then hot damn again when Dylan came on screen. Too many great moments to cite, just go and enjoy it and enjoy it loud:

THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD- Mon May 20 at 7- MOMA- Part of MOMA's In Memoriam: Celeste Bartos retrospective. Ms. Bartos was a committee member and chairperson of MOMA's Board of Trustees, who not only pushed for and contributed to the building of MOMA's own film storage and preservation center in Pennsylvania,  but also started the Celeste Bartos Fund for Film Preservation which has been active since the 1990s. Among the films that benefited from this was The Adventures of Robin Hood, screened in a new 35mm print.
Dashing Robin Hood (Errol Flynn) steals from the oppressive rich, gives to the poor, thumbs his nose at authority he doesn't respect like Prince John (Claude Rains), and tries to get jiggy with, er I mean MAKE TIME with Maid Marian (Olivia de Havilland - sigh . . .). Also with more contract character actors from that era then you can shake a stick at. An Oscar nominee for Best Picture, it won for Art Direction, Editing, and Original Score. The most difficult of the Technicolor films to make work up to that point, and the most successful for its time. And, most importantly, fun for all ages.

The highlight for me is the sword fight between Flynn and Basil Rathbone. 2 swordsmen at their best, just like in Captain Blood. Like I said before to others, I never seen better on-screen duelists then Flynn-Rathbone, unless the characters portrayed are named either Darth Vader and/or Luke Skywalker. Ok, that first fight in Crouching Tiger/Hidden Dragon was also too cool for school, but I now forget if both women had swords or not:
ATLANTIC CITY- Thurs May 23 at 9- Elinor Bunin Monroe Film Center at Lincoln Center- Part of Lincoln Center's Burt Lancaster retrospective. I'm sorry to say that this is the only film from that series that I'll post. But I've done both Sweet Smell of Success and The Leopard more than once and I'm not doing Brute Force again (a mixed bag for me). Also, Birdman of Alcatraz, Lawman and Go! Go Tell The Spartans! aren't being screened at all, while Elmer Gantry, Twilight's Last Gleaming and The Rainmaker are not playing at convenient times. And while have done Atlantic City before at Lincoln Center, I know enough of you out there who are either unaware of this film's existence  or have seen it so long ago that you can use a refresher. Plus it's playing at Lincoln Center's newest place, the Elinor Bunin Monroe Film Center.
Lancaster plays Lou, a small time gangster with delusions about his past, reduced to taking care of a needy old moll and lusting after his neighbor across the way. That neighbor is Sally, learning to be a croupier while working a casino's clam bar. Her ex turns up not only with a pregnant girlfriend (her sister!) and his own delusions, but also with drugs stolen from mobsters. Louis Malle's best English language film/American critique is never belittling to his characters or to the audience. These small time dreamers surrounded by a city (a country?) that's crumbling all around them. Sometimes romantically, sometimes humorously (dark humor), but never with any condescension.
5 Oscar Nominations, including Picture, Malle for Director, John Guare for Screenplay, Lancaster for Actor (who only got the role after Robert Mitchum was dropped because Mitchum went out & got a face lift for the film!) and Susan Sarandon for Actress (who cemented sex symbol status with what she did with lemons, and leading lady status with her performance). For me, this is runner-up for best film of 1981, behind Raiders of the Lost Ark. Sorry, Reds and On Golden Pond fans. Well, not that sorry . . . :
TIME BANDITS- Fri May 24-Sun May 26 at Midnight-ish- IFC Center- Time Bandits, a sleeper hit of fall 1981, gets a Memorial Day weekend-long run of Midnight screenings, as part of IFC Center's Terry Gilliam retrospective. Sunday the 26th is included. Don't have a specific time so I'll just write Midnight-ish.
More successful then all the Python films upon its initial release, except for A Fish Called Wanda and maybe Meaning of Life. More a family film, but with enough Python touches that keep the youngest kids away (though not at this screening), and more then enough mature-ish content to keep adults awake. A boy encounters 6 time traveling dwarfs, and ends up accompanying them on their adventures. Said adventures are certainly more interesting than his dull suburban home with his TV dinner eating/ TV game show watching parents. But being stuck in Ancient Rome, the Titanic, a boat of ogres  and Hell itself is not without its dangers. Featuring John Cleese as Robin Hood, Sean Connery as Agamemnon, Lord of the Ring's Ian Holm as Napoleon, Ralph Richardson as the Supreme Being and Jim Broadbent in an early film role. Though I should point out David Warner as a scene-stealing Devil. He's not the worst guy around. Except for the wish to spread evil around and turning people into dogs and pigs or just making them explode, but a swell guy otherwise. Also featuring Michael Palin in a dual role; he also co-wrote the film with Gilliam:
JAWS- Fri May 24- Sun May 26 at Midnight-ish- IFC Center- If Time Bandits doesn't float your boat this Memorial Day weekend, than maybe Jaws will. Also around Midnight, and also on Sunday the 26th. On both AFI Top 100 lists, but higher up for me. Also in my personal Top 35 as opposed to just one of one hundred. Don't underestimate the quality of this Spielberg film on the big screen, and IFC Center tends to get good prints. It's not just another fish film. 3 Oscars including John Williams's memorable score, and a nomination for Best Picture (along with One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Barry Lyndon, Dog Day Afternoon and Nashville; not shabby:  
A PIG ACROSS PARIS- Sun May 26- Wed May 30 at 6:20, 8 and 9:40- Film Forum- A new DCP restoration of a film, also known as Four Bags Full, that's more of a classic in France than outside of it. Maybe because Francois Truffaut took issue with director Claude-Autant-Lara over some kind of bullshit ego thing (probably ego), and trashed most if not all his films, including this one.
In this dramedy, two men are running around in Paris with a black market item so secretive, you would think this was some kind of drug deal. But since this Nazi-occupied Paris, we're talking about an even rarer product: food. Or more specifically, four suitcases of butchered pork. An obnoxious  penny-pinching butcher entrusts the job of selling the meat to someone else: a straight-arrow man who's no good at doing this kind of subterfuge on his own. So said straight-arrow enlists a hustler of sorts to guide them through the black market. This hustler, who may or may not be homeless, would love to steal the four cases of butchered meat to sell himself. But the two men spend almost all night trying to find their way around Paris, dodging other hustlers, poor people, the police and the Nazis, and struggling at every stop. Oh, did I mention the suitcases weigh a combined 200 pounds? Not exactly easy to drag around . . .
I referred to this as a dramedy, because while there's comedy abound, this is an occupied country and war is hell. Don't know much else about the film, except the two leads: Bourvil as the straight arrow (liked him as the detective with an apartment full of cats in Le Circe Rouge) and Jean Gabin (loved him as the escaping Lieutenant in Grand Illusion) as the hustler. Sounds interesting and hey, it's only eighty minutes long: 
THE PHILADELPHIA STORY for 7.50- Thurs May 30 at 7 and 9:30- Chelsea Clearview Cinema- A cheap screening of my favorite screwball comedy/ romantic comedy. There are two screenings actually; a 7pm screening introduced by Hedda Lettuce, and a 9:30 without Hedda, but will probably start closer to 9:40 than 9:30. As to which screening I would catch, I'll let majority rule to determine which screening is the one for me.
With that said, on a personal note, if the 7pm screening is what we agree on doing, then I'll be relying on others to purchase the tickets ahead of time. I'll be lucky to get to the theater itself by 7 on the dot. That will make us, as latecomers, prime targets for Hedda's barbs. I speak from personal experience; the first time was when I won a DVD of Nim's Island and 50% off tickets for Naked Boys Singing (which was more useless to me?) and the second time was when Twilight Breaking Dawn Pt. 1 was about to open. I was drinking a soda with most of the Twilight cast on the cup, and Hedda was singling me out as to who I wanted to sleep with ("It's Robert Pattinson, you want him! You know you do! Everyone, even the straights want to sleep with him!"). I took my medicine, and hoped Hedda would pick another target pretty soon. I still smiled both times though and I still laugh at my prizes from the first outing. In any case, the 7PM screening probably won't start until 7:15 or so anyway. That would also mean the 9:30 screening will probably start around 9:40 to 9:50, and its 1 hour 52 minutes long I believe, so be prepared.
It Happened One Night might be the best version of Hollywood Screwball Comedy ever made, but for me The Philadelphia Story fits the bill. Donald Ogden Stewart's sharp adaptation of Philip Barry's play, where impulsive and judgmental socialite Katharine Hepburn is ready to re-marry. But the arrival of ex-husband Cary Grant and tabloid journalists Jimmy Stewart and Ruth Hussey on the day before the wedding causes complications. But not the kind you would expect. The coming together of people allows for the opportunity to see past each others' first impressions. Hepburn learns Stewart is a writer and falls for the Artist in him, Stewart sees the sensitivity behind Hepburn's harsh exterior, Hussey's street-smart exterior covers a crush on Stewart, Grant's recovering alcoholic is trying to make amends in obvious and less than obvious ways, and I haven't even gone into Hepburn's precocious little sister, her parents, her uppity politician fiancee or Uncle Willy.
Let's not get maudlin here. The words come out fast, furious, and funny. That said, the funniest sequence for me is the silent classic scene that starts the movie; where we see the dissolution of Hepburn and Grant's marriage in brief and funny detail. There are no villains, except for the politician/ fiancee and the tabloid editor I guess. Basically we get to spend two hours with likable people, three of them happen to be movie stars. Hell, even the smart-aleck little sister is likable; this film and 500 Days of Summer might be the only examples of this rare phenomenon!      
6 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, George Cukor for Director, Hepburn for Actress (she bought the rights to the play and fought MGM like hell to retain her role, which would become a career reviver , and Hussey for Supporting Actress. 2 Oscars for the Stewarts: Donald Ogden for the Writing, and James for Best Actor. Maybe a surprise win for Jimmy, considering he won over the likes of Chaplin (The Great Dictator), Fonda (Grapes of Wrath) and Olivier (Rebecca). Maybe it was a make-up call for losing the Best Actor Oscar one year earlier to Ronald Donat for Goodbye Mr Chips, who knows. On both AFI Top lists and on my own Top 100 list as well:


THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD for free (subject to ticket availability)- Friday May 31 at 7-MOMA- If you can't do Robin Hood on the 20th of May, or would prefer not to pay to see it, you can catch the Errol Flynn classic on Friday the 31st for free, subject to availability. Tickets that have not been reserved by MOMA members by 3:15 that afternoon, will be made available (up to 2 per person) on a first come first served basis, at 3:30-3:45 (whenever the ticket desk is ready):
Lots of good stuff. Let me know if there's interest, later all.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

May revivals: first half

Hey all. Mike here with a revival list for the first half of May. I thought this would be a short list, and a mostly Film Forum list at that. But then the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria finally came out with a screening schedule that extends beyond Sunday April 28th, and a couple of them put a smile on my face. So here we go:

VOYAGE TO ITALY- Wed May 1, Fri May 3, Sat May 4, and Wed May 8 at 7:30 and 9:30- Wed May 1 at 7:30 introduced by Isabella Rossellini- Film Forum- This film plays for 9 days. I'm listing the dates I'm pretty sure I can do, despite Saturday the 4th to be a bit of a question mark, in part because of the two films I list directly below this.
A restored DCP screening of Roberto Rossellini's 1954 film. His then wife Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders, play a married couple. They're bored with their marriage prior to the start of the film, and we watch it further disintegrate over the bulk of the running time. Bergman's character pines for a young lover who died long ago and much too young, and Sanders' character is far more comfortable with his work than with the growing distance between them. They take a trip to Italy to try to repair the damage, but can the beauty of Naples, the ruins of Pompeii and other sights be enough to spark their marriage from the brink? A flop in its day, the film has since been championed by Martin Scorsese (the first modern film as far as he's concerned), as well by British film critics to make Voyage To Italy a classic in Britain and put it in their Film Institute's Top 100. Ingrid and Roberto's daughter, Isabella Rossellini, will introduce the 7:30 screening on Wednesday, May 1st. This particular screening will probably sell out quick, so this requires planning: 
FAHRENHEIT 451 (for free on a first come first served basis) and/or HELP!- Sat May 4 at 2 (Fahrenheit) and 4 (Help!)- Museum of the Moving Image- 2 films that have only 4 things in common: that they were both released in the 1960s, that both films had high expectations from audiences upon release, that both films received very mixed reactions from said audiences upon release, and that both are playing on the same day at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria.
First, the rarely screened Fahrenheit 451, from 1967. The adaptation of Ray Bradbury's classic novel, which he said wasn't a book about censorship, but a depiction of a possible future where a society is taken with television. So taken that not only is literature burned, but information is doled out only by image and sound bite (seems like the later has been going on for a while, in and out of politics, but anyway). Oskar Werner is Montag, a fireman whose very job of burning books is questioned; first by a beautiful stranger, and then by himself.

Probably the most difficult film in Francois Truffaut's career to make. His only English language film. It took about six years for him to adapt it properly in his mind. Some of the changes he made, like tweaking the ending and not only having the beautiful stranger live beyond the start of the story but to have her and Montag's wife be two sides of the same coin, work. Having Julie Christie play both roles makes Truffaut look like a genius. The world we see is unique: European looking, not overly futuristic but not alien either. Nicolas Roeg's cinematography and Bernard Herrmann's score help greatly. Good film, but how good you think it is will depend on how you feel about Werner's lead performance. Oskar went with an approach that Truffaut quipped was like a monkey sniffing a book. Whether you think his performance, which caused actor and director to feud throughout shooting, helps or hurts the film, is up to you. I don't hate his performance, but I'm curious to see what a different approach to Montag would look like. We've been hearing for decades about other directors' attempt to remake this, with Mel Gibson coming the closest allegedly. But this will probably be years down the line, so now's a good time to check this out.

The screening of 451 is sponsored by the Queens Public Library, with funding from the National Endowment of the Arts. It is free on a first come, first served basis. Members of the museum can reserve tickets ahead of time by calling 718-777-6800. Two tickets max, have your museum ID number ready. The free ticket may or may not allow you to check out the museum itself, but it won't let you see the next film playing that afternoon. That you would have to pay for.

Next, "Help!", the Beatles and director Richard Lester's follow-up to the hit A Hard Day's Night. This starts the Museum's Play It Loud series of films; mostly rock films, some fictional and some documentaries, mostly in stereo. 

But first, let me sidetrack for a bit. The second time I ever saw A Hard Day's Night in a movie theater, it was at a revival screening at the Forum, double-featured with The Marx Brothers' Duck Soup, an almost perfect double feature as far as I'm concerned. The films were like kindred spirits to one another, even if Hard Day's was more rooted in reality, or a kind of reality at least.

Going through the plot of Duck Soup, like with all other Marx Bros films, is pointless. And that applies to the Marx Brothers-esque Help!. Yes, there's a plot involving a magic ring stuck on Ringo's finger, and the Fab Four are being chased by a Thugee-type of cult led by the future Rumpole of the Bailey, but whatever. Just keep the movie flowing (which it does, but not to the level of Hard Day's), keep the jokes coming (which don't always work, though maybe the boys shouldn't have been stoned for the whole shoot), and bring on the songs. Oh yeah, the songs. You're Going to Lose that Girl, Ticket To Ride, I Need You and the title song are among the highlights. Not on the level of Hard Day's but still fun:

BADLANDS- Fri May 10, Sat May 11, and Tues May 14 at 6:30, 8:20 and 10:10, plus Wed May 15 at 8:20- Film Forum- A 4K restoration of Terrence Malick's film on its 40th anniversary. The restoration was supervised by Emmanuel Lubezki, who shot Malick's The New World, The Tree of Life, To The Wonder, as well as Children of Men.

Malick's feature length directorial debut from 1973. In 1959, a 25 year old drifter (Martin Sheen) who idolizes James Dean, runs off with his 15 year old girlfriend (Sissy Spacek). This might sound like romantic, but once you know going in that Badlands is a dramatized version of the infamous Starkweather homicides of 1958, you know you're in violence-with-consequences territory. Moving around and interacting with each other and the open road in an almost dreamlike state, but Spacek's off-screen narration tells us that at least one half of the couple knows they have a dark future ahead.

Kind of a response for those who felt the main characters in Bonnie and Clyde were too romanticized, and a clear inspiration for the ultra-heightened Natural Born Killers. With some of the best acting work Sheen and Spacek have ever done. Among debut films for directors, I would argue that only Welles' Citizen Kane and John Huston's The Maltese Falcon are better films than Badlands. Boy do I hope I'm not misquoted or taken out of context with that sentence . . . . . Most Malick revivals play for one, maybe two screenings, and those screenings tend to sell out or come very close. But Badlands, Malick's most accessible film, plays for a full week. So the sell-out aspect shouldn't be an issue:
A HARD DAY'S NIGHT and/or (though I prefer doing both) GIMME SHELTER- Sat May 11 at 2 (Night) and 5 (Shelter)- Museum of the Moving Image- 2 more films from the Museum's Play Loud Series of modern rock films and/or documentaries. First, A Hard Day's Night from 1964. The Richard Lester classic that defined Beatlemania, influenced MTV until it became a place for reality shows, made most musicals that told their stories in stodgy ways to become Dead Musicals Walking, and briefly made the Beatles the seeming heir to the Marx Bros in comedy. Ok, Paul is stiffer then a tree in Yellowstone here, but John, Ringo, and especially George, make up for that. And oh yeah, there are few decent songs. All My Loving, And I Love Her, Can't Buy Me Love, the title song, and others. C'mon folks, this film is fun.
Next, Gimme Shelter, the powerful documentary from 1970, showing part of the Rolling Stones' 1969 tour, with much of the focus on the tragic concert at Altamont. From the Maysles brothers, the documentary they're probably best known for, even more than Grey Gardens, sorry Broadway/ HBO/Drew Barrymore fans. In December 1969, 4 months after Woodstock, the Stones and Jefferson Airplane gave a free concert in Northern California, east of Oakland at Altamont Speedway. About 300,000 people came, and the organizers put Hell's Angels in charge of security around the stage. Armed with pool cues and knifes, Angels spent the concert beating up spectators, killing at least one.
The film intercuts performances, the violence, Grace Slick and Mick Jagger's attempts to cool things down, close-ups of young listeners (dancing, drugged, or suffering Angel shock), and a look at Jagger as he watches concert footage and reflects on what happened (that's how the film starts). We see the set-up of the concert, the negotiation for which site, complete with preening lawyer Marvin Belli. But as great as the music is, as the concert goes on, the sense of foreboding grows, and tragedy is ripe to happen. The whole idea of Peace Love and Understanding from Woodstock? Watch that slowly die away of the course of Gimme Shelter's running time. Up until recently, this film has only been available on long out of print VHS and DVD copies. But still, unless you sought out this film on Netflix, you probably only have a vague idea of the film, the concert, or the killing. Now is a great time to change that:

CLUE: INTERACTIVE SCREENING WITH HEDDA LETTUCE- Sat May 11 at 10 for 10 dollars- Chelsea Clearview Cinema- A special Saturday night screening, thus the $10.00 charge. Like the regular 7PM screenings on a Thursday night, only with not only an opening monologue of some sort from Hedda Lettuce, but also an MST3K kind of talk back-vibe to the screening. Of course it's Hedda doing the talking, so long portions of the film will probably go uninterrupted  And realize that it's Hedda doing the talking back, not you. If you want to talk back to the screen, go find yourself a screening of Rocky Horror or The Room. This may sell out so planning ahead would be necessary. 

Now as for Clue, the film itself, I have happy sentimental reasons to post it. It's no Citizen Kane, but it's fun. But compared to other films based on toys, like Battleship or Masters of the Universe, this is the Citizen Kane of toy films: take that comment however you will. This has a major cult following in L.A. In NYC, not so much. I don't know why I like the film so much. It has a good beginning, an extremely mixed middle (Hedda Lettuce should be very helpful there) and endings of varying quality. But I like it, no rational reason why. Just makes me laugh more often than not. Though its cast (Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn, Eileen Brennan, Martin Mull, Christopher Lloyd, Lesley Ann Warren, Michael McKean) sure helps. From director Jonathan Lynn of future My Cousin Vinny fame:

 Let me know if there's interest, later all.